Q: As a 1993 graduate, explain what it was like to be a SALT student before the program had its own facility as it does today.
The SALT Program affected me as both as a SALT Tutor and a SALT Student (1991-1993). At the time, I was an older student than most who are in your program now. When I first started I was age 29 and I had just gotten out of the Air Force. I had a previous degree in Political Science but my grades were not good enough for Graduate School. I had a dream to try to become a Mechanical Engineer. I was taking classes full and part time at the UA.
In 1991, I had returned from a cooperative education program working as a student engineer with the US Navy in California. I needed work and I started first as a SALT Tutor. I was hired to tutor students in Astronomy and Geology because of my science/math background. Through the professional learning disability training I received as a tutor and working with SALT Students, I found out many things about myself.
At the time, I found that I had many of the same symptoms my students had and I was struggling in my Mechanical Engineering classes. These items I thought were "normal" but later I discovered I had a form of dyslexia that affected my hearing and thought processes making me a slow person. Although too late for my first degree, the knowledge of having my learning disability helped me complete my second degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Q: What was it like to work alongside, or sometimes with, Eleanor Harner (SALT Founder)?
Eleanor Harner was head of the program. She was a kindly but firm woman trying to get a new and innovative program going. Not everyone thought Eleanor was correct in her approach and there was often push back by the academia.
When I was first hired as a SALT Student Tutor in 1991 we worked out of an old 1920s style, two story house off of East 6th just south of Old Main. I believe the building was where the facilities management custodial building now stands. It was where we tutored most of our students. As an engineering student, I assisted in putting in the first handicap ramp at the back door of the house. Later we moved to the basement of Old Main where we took up half the basement for counselors and all the tables outside of the building for tutoring. It was here that I met Beverly Sandock, one of the SALT counselors.
Q: How has the SALT Center played a role in your success as a professional?
The meeting with Beverly Sandock changed my life. I was referred to Dr. Wolf and she diagnosed me with dyslexia. With this information in hand, I became a student in the SALT program. With its advocacy, I was able to take my engineering exams and later my Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) professional exam with extra time. I completed my courses and received my BS in Mechanical Engineering in December 1993. Later, because of my SALT tutoring, I became a substitute teacher in science and math in Pima County then later moved into my career as a mechanical engineer with the US Navy. I have 18 years government service now and travel the world fixing navy ships.
Q: What message of advice would you share with incoming SALT students?
I would say never give up, keep trying and find a way. I believe in Cesar Chavez's words "¡Si, Se Puede! ("Yes, you can"). I say this to Ventura County foster children that my wife and I raise now. They struggle to fight with their emotions and with their issues of abuse and family neglect. They have many issues as insurmountable as SALT Students but only caused by a failed society and broken families. I am passing on what was given to me as a positive role model.
If you would like to contact the SALT Center's Marketing Specialist, please call or email Eric Fergason.